Thursday, June 24, 2021

Camera Odometer

Well, technically not an odometer, but it's the same concept. Remember when car odometers went up to 99,999 before rolling over to zero? I don't think you can fool today's car odometers. They go well above 99,999. Not sure if there is such a thing as rolling over to zero anymore. But on my last hike, my camera's odometer (more correctly referred to as a shutter count) was at IMG_9999. Here's the photo:
It's a photo of a big, healthy Mojave Yucca. And then the camera "rolled over" and the next image was IMG_0001 (photo below).
More Mojave Yucca. This photo captures a little cluster of them up on a hillside, using a telephoto lens. I exposed for the sky, so the Yuccas are in silhouette. And with this shot, it's a fresh count starting at one!
This got me thinking... I wonder how many times my camera has turned over? Probably at least 10-15 times. But to be honest, I never paid much attention to it. Is shutter count turnover common knowledge? Does anyone pay attention to it??
I have a program on my laptop called "Free Shutter Count". If I was willing to dig through my closet to find my camera box, I could get the cord that connects my camera to the computer and tell you my exact shutter count. But since I feel lazy and pressed for time, I'm going to give you my best guess. My camera likely has a shutter count between 100,000 and 150,000. It might be higher. Actually, it probably is higher.
IMG_0011: View north towards the 29 Palms Marine Base
I bought my 5D Mark II about 10 years ago used. In camera years, it's very much a senior citizen. It's in its twilight years. I'm thinking about buying a newer camera body just to take advantage of some of the newer technology, but this camera has been an old friend. It bounces around in my Jeep, puts up with desert dust and sand storms, gets bumped on rocky boulders, and it just keeps taking great photos.
I'm told that a camera like mine will get to a shutter count of at least 150K before passing on to camera heaven. I found a YouTube video documenting a 5D Mark II with a shutter count of 1 million!
From the archives: My friend Pat, pretending to clear the way on the Boy Scout Trail.
This full moon rise at the end of a recent hike was icing on the cake!
If I do upgrade my camera body, it will probably be to a used 5D Mark IV.
Of course, I'll want to buy one with a low shutter count!
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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Views from the Boy Scout Trail


No words... just views.

Silhouette of an exhausted hiker!

All uphill to reach these views. 1547' to be exact.
Oh my aching joints! But definitely worth it.
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Thursday, June 10, 2021

Out of the Wash and Up to the Trail!

Last post I had miraculously made it all the way up the "seven challenge wash" without a major injury. I was a little stiff and sore, but otherwise in good spirits. The second half of this hike would require finding a way to climb up and out of the wash to the Boy Scout Trail.
Did I mention I got super lucky with gorgeous skies during the hike? I ended up taking a ridiculous number of photos... one of the reasons I need to split the hike into two or maybe even three posts. 
The photo above was just a little ways down the wash from the giant dryfall. This is looking back in the direction I had hiked, and I need to find a way to turn left to climb up the rocks and (hopefully) find the trail.
What an interesting little shelter! I haven't found the trail yet, but I think I'm getting close.
Success!!!!! As I pull myself up to the trail, the first thing I see is this weird-looking beheaded Mojave Yucca. Does anyone remember Cousin Itt from the Addams Family??

The scenery along this stretch of the trail is ruggedly beautiful!
One final goal to make this a near perfect hike is to see if I can hike to the top of the huge dryfall. I've obviously seen it from the bottom, and it would be interesting to see it from the top. I still have a little gas in the tank, so let's go see what we can find.
Well, surprise surprise! This is a very large dryfall, but it's not the one I was expecting (and not the one we were looking at from below on my last post). Below is the photo of that large dryfall. So that means we have two very large dryfalls, one spilling into the other. It would be incredible to see these falls after a heavy rain, if there was a way to do it safely.
We will follow this wash back up to the trail.

Back on the trail now, it's steep going at this spot (the trail is on the left). As I make my way up, I also have my eye on that little pinnacle with the alcove in it (upper center-right), but not sure there is any easy way to get to it. And I have to conserve energy for the long hike home.
California Juniper with bluish berries in the foreground.

Amazing views!
I noticed a small bird flitting in and out of this cholla cactus, so went over to investigate. I found a nest with these delicate little blue eggs. Cactus wrens commonly nest in chollas, but this bird is much smaller. It's amazing to me that birds nest in the middle of all these needle-sharp thorns!
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Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Seven Challenge Wash

Desert Wash:  A flat, usually sandy, bottom of canyons or low-lying areas that lack water during most of the year, but provide drainage during periodic heavy rain or flash floods. The canyon walls on either side of a wash can sometimes be steep, and large boulders can make passage all but impossible in some areas.

Someone asked me if I had ever seen the large waterfall off of Boy Scout Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. I was pretty sure she meant "dryfall", meaning a rocky drop off, with the rocks being shaped and smoothed by periodic water flow. The dryfall might only see heavy water flow once or twice a year (or not at all in dry years), but you multiply that by thousands or millions of years, and it results in rocks carved and smoothed by the flow of water. Crazy but true!

She was kind enough to share the location of the dryfall, and I could see it was not too far off the main trail, which would provide access to the top of the dryfall. But she also told me about an alternate approach: A seldom used wash that could hypothetically be used to reach the bottom of the dryfall. It's not the route she took, and she warned me that rumor has it that it's a very challenging route to take. Lots of walking, crawling, and climbing over and around boulders. But I was hooked! I can actually hike out my door and connect to Boy Scout Trail, and the thought of a "secret wash" was too tempting to resist!

My first photo of the hike. My DSLR is still in my backpack at this point, so just a quick iPhone shot. I like the way this heart shape is stamped into the boulder.

I didn't have a companion for this hike, and I knew it was going to be a tough one, so I spent a LOT of time studying Google Earth. I mapped everything out on my Garmin, and carried my InReach device in case something really bad happened. It looked like there would be seven difficult, boulder-clogged areas I would have to navigate over or around before reaching the base of the dryfall. Any one of these might turn out to be impassable and require me to go back. I gave myself about a 30% chance of success. If I could make it to the dryfall, it looked like I might be able to access Boy Scout Trail and turn this into a loop hike, which would be very nice indeed.

Not much flowering on this hike except creosote, but the bees were happy! There was cloud cover for the first half of the hike, which was awesome. The temps were cool, so perfect hiking weather!

Just getting started... looking back in the direction of my house, which is a mile or less from where I'm standing. That's Copper Mountain on the right.

This is a cholla cactus... the meanest, nastiest, badass cactus in the Mojave Desert, with needle-sharp spines that are barbed on the end. And yet, desert pack rats make their burrows under them, and even gather them around the burrow entrance to keep foxes and coyotes away. Amazing! Below is a closer look at a burrow. Ouch!!

I'm just connecting with the Boy Scout Trail. The Boy Scouts put a lot of work into this section of the trail back in the day! This will take me up and over this ridge in then down into a sandy, steep-sided wash.

You can see how pretty this part of the Boy Scout Trail is. I've grabbed my DSLR out of my pack for this and subsequent photos. A classic wash with steep sides and climbing in elevation. I forgot to mention, I've only done the hike down the BST, never going up. It's tough, slow going in the deep sand. Somewhere up ahead will be my turnoff to begin "Seven Challenge Wash".

Challenge #1. Let the games begin! It doesn't look too bad, at least at the beginning. Hard to tell how difficult it will be getting beyond those big boulders.

Challenge #2. So far, so good. For each challenge, I need to decide if I can continue straight (direct route), do a bypass (using the canyon wall), or say "uncle!" and call it a day. Challenge 1 & 2 were straight ahead.

Challenge #3. This was a tough one. I believe I climbed it straight ahead, very slow and very careful, on the right side. This is a little outside my comfort zone when on a solo hike, but the handholds and footholds were good, so I continued forward.

Challenge #4. Yuck... that's a lot of boulders! Proceed straight ahead, slowly, carefully. I remind myself over and over... one step at a time and one boulder at a time.

Challenge #5. On satellite view, this looked like the most challenging challenge, and that turned out to be the case. I needed to do a bypass to continue, and it was very difficult. This was the one and only time I remember feeling a little panicked, thanking I can climb UP these boulders, but I have serious doubts about getting back down (I'm better at climbing up). Which means that I better be able to make it the rest of the way to the dryfall, and then I better be able to connect with BST, or I'm in trouble! It's a calculated risk, and I proceed on.

Challenge 5 closeup.

After Challenge #5, things are kind of a blur. The wash is filled with boulders, and Challenge 5, 6, and 7 all blend together. But I distinctly remember feeling better... looser, more confident, knowing I would make it to the dryfall after getting around #5. The photo above is somewhere near Challenge #6, but I forgot to get a good photo to document it.
Challenge #7. Piece of cake compared to some of the earlier challenges. The dryfall should be dead ahead. Oh, and I'm starting to see a lot more blue sky. Perfect timing!

There it is! My first view of the dryfall. Let's see if we can climb over these boulders for a better look.

I would estimate this dryfall to be at least 25' high. It's a beauty, and interesting because the rock surface that's smoothed by water looks to be darker (almost black) compared to the surrounding rock. There are no human footprints anywhere in the area. There's no way to climb over it, and the the rock walls on the left and right look too steep to go around. My hope is to backtrack a short distance, climb out of this canyon, and reconnect with the BST up above.
A bonus on this hike... I notice what look to be little pecked-out marks on a rock. Hard to tell if they are naturally made or human made. The marks are on a prominent area, almost like they are trying to draw my attention. As I get closer, I can see a shallow cave. Inside the cave...
... what appears to be a petroglyph. What a fun find! Kind of reminds me of an insect. Perhaps a bee?
But I've run out of time, and I'm sure you good people have other blogs to visit. Join me on my next post as I make the connection with Boy Scout Trail and the long hike home.
The desert is getting into triple digit temps now, so this will be my last challenging hike until things cool off. I'll still make a few short hikes, so stay tuned!

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